Air-crafted Artefacts: Additive upcycling plastics within the Aviation Tourism Industry
Within the New Zealand Aviation Tourism Industry (NZATI), an extensive amount of single-use plastic is consumed due to its light-weight properties and stringent hygiene requirements. After use, most end up in landfills causing immense environmental and health issues. Plastic waste can no longer be sent overseas, and New Zealand (NZ) still lacks sustainable waste management infrastructure. Moreover, there are limited recycling solutions for certain types of plastics, such as soft plastic. This poses a challenge for the industry, which generates tonnes of plastic waste and carbon emissions annually despite the implementation of sustainable practices. This research presents an opportunity for industry leaders such as Air New Zealand (AirNZ) to shift their current waste management model into a closed-loop system. The system focuses on how to upcycle inflight plastic through 3D printing (3DP) technologies into high-value products that reflect the identity of NZ. The research introduces how to implement 3D printed upcycling systems to benefit NZ culturally, economically and environmentally through several scenarios. A materials-led investigation with soft plastic bags, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene meal trays and polystyrene coffee stirrers revealed a variety of design possibilities. This resulted in a range of 3DP artefacts with novel visual, tactile and structural qualities. These include baskets printed from soft plastic and flax filament, a large chandelier printed from coffee stirrers, and topographic tiles printed from in-flight meal trays combined with organic waste from the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute. The design outputs of this research act as a tangible reference for implementation by industry partners. Additionally, it demonstrates how 3DP and sustainable design approaches can be used to reduce environmental impacts and enhance product value. With a system of 3D printed upcycling in place, it provides the opportunity to promote sustainable tourism, allowing visitors to be responsible for their waste and encourage eco-conscious behaviours.